Friday, January 2, 2015

May This Judge End Up Helpless and Dependent on a Home-Care Worker

Certain things you don't do because you're nice, but because they're self-destructive:

  • Don't fail to tip the people who bring you food.
  • Don't piss off your hairdresser.
  • And whatever you do, don't underpay the person who changes your adult diaper.
Bryce Covert at Think Progress:
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon struck down a rule change issued by the Department of Labor that would have extended minimum wage and overtime pay protections to home care workers come January.

In 1974, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) — the law requires American employers to pay their workers at least the minimum wage and extra pay for overtime hours — was expanded to cover domestic workers. Yet a carve-out was included for those who provide “care and fellowship” to the elderly and disabled in their homes. That exemption became so broadly interpreted as to deny basic labor rights from those who feed, clothe, and bathe clients, as well as give them medical care. In 2007, under that law, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman named Evelyn Coke’s employer, who had her work long hours giving care, did nothing illegal by failing to give her overtime pay.


Home care workers occupy one of the fastest-growing industries yet are also among the lowest paid. Their median wage was $9.67 last year, or just over $20,000 a year, a figure that represents a 5 percent decline since 2003 when adjusted for inflation. Because they aren’t guaranteed the federal minimum wage of $7.25, many make poverty wages: nearly a third of New York City aides make less than $15,000 a year. Nearly 40 percent of the workforce makes so little that they turn to public benefits to get by.

Even minimum wage may not be enough for these workers to support themselves. They have recently joined the movement for a $15 an hour wage that was begun by fast food workers.

Their work can also be grueling and constant. Laura Lynn Clark, who has cared for a mentally disabled client for ten years, makes $8.87 an hour and though she works 199 hours every two weeks giving around-the-clock care, doesn’t get any overtime pay. “The work I do is not companionship or babysitting,” she says.

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